Antony Sher, Olivier-Winning Shakespearean Actor, Dies at 72 | Playbill

Obituaries Antony Sher, Olivier-Winning Shakespearean Actor, Dies at 72 The stage and screen star made his Broadway debut with a Tony-nominated and Theatre World Award-winning performance in Stanley.
Antony Sher
Antony Sher

Sir Antony Sher, one of the great Shakespearean actors of his time, passed away December 3 at the age of 72 from cancer, The Guardian reports. Mr. Sher was married to Royal Shakespeare Company Artistic Director Gregory Doran, who directed the actor in many productions and also announced in September he would take compassionate leave to care for the ailing performer.

Born June 14, 1949, in South Africa, Mr. Sher studied his craft at London's Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art and would go on to win two Olivier Awards. His first was in 1985 for his work on two separate productions: the title role in Shakespeare's Richard III and drag performer Arnold Beckoff in the London debut of Harvey Fierstein's Torch Song Trilogy. In his acceptance speech at the time, the actor quipped, “I’m very happy to be the first actor to win an award for playing both a king and a queen.” He would win a second Olivier in 1997 for his portrayal of English painter Stanley Spencer in Pam Gems' Stanley, the play that would bring him to Broadway for the first time.

Antony Sher in <i>Primo</i>
Antony Sher in Primo Photo by Ivan Kyncl

His five-decade career included an eclectic list of roles that spanned the entire range of the human experience. Among them: Ringo Starr in John, Paul, George, Ringo and Bert, Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, Falstaff in the Henry IV plays, Leontes in The Winter’s Tale, Iago in Othello, Prospero in The Tempest, and the title roles in King Lear, Kean, Macbeth, Tamburlaine the Great, Arturo Ui, Joseph K, and Cyrano de Bergerac.

Mr. Sher made his Broadway debut in 1997 in the aforementioned Stanley, earning a Tony nomination for his performance and a Theatre World Award.

The actor also penned several novels and memoirs. His first play, I.D., which debuted at the Almeida Theatre in 2003, concerned South African Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd, who was stabbed to death in Parliament by messenger Demetrios Tsafendas. Sher, who grew up in Cape Town, played the assassin to Marius Weyers' Verwoerd.

Antony Sher (left) and Sello Maake ka Ncube in <i>Othello</i>
Antony Sher (left) and Sello Maake ka Ncube in Othello Photo by RSC/Manuel Harlan

He also enjoyed a hit with the solo show Primo, which he also wrote, at the National's Cottesloe Theatre in 2004. The production subsequently played Cape Town before returning to London at the Hampstead Theatre and opening on Broadway in July 2005. The play, which cast the actor as Italian chemist and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, was filmed and later broadcast on PBS in 2008. Mr. Sher won the 2006 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance.

On screen, he received a BAFTA nomination for his performance in Primo and won the Evening Standard British Film Award for his work in Mrs. Brown. He and the company of Shakespeare in Love were also awarded the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance (Mr. Sher played Dr. Moth in the film). Other screen credits include Marple, God on Trial, Murphy's Law, Home, The Jury, Macbeth, The Miracle Worker, The Winter's Tale, The Moonstone, Alive and Kicking, Look at the State We're In, Genghis Cohn, The History Man, One Fine Day, Superman II, and The Madness.

Mr. Sher was knighted in 2000, and in 2005 he and Doran were one of the first gay couples to enter into a civil partnership in the U.K.; they were married in 2015. He enjoyed a decades-long association with the Royal Shakespeare Company and was last seen in the company's 2020 production of John Kani's Kunene and The King.

 
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